He is there and He is not Silent

The Attributes of God

He is there and He is not silent. Of course, both these facts are immensely relevant to our discussion of the attributes of God. If God was not, or was silent, we could speak nothing of Him. But God is.[1] But, that is not all, He speaks. He has revealed Himself! In one sense, it is right to say that He didn’t need to do this.[2]

God is! He exists. He made the world—worlds!—and holds all things together (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3). But that is not all, He shows Himself—Himself—to us. He is not silent.

He paints the sky for us. Not once a day but twice a day. It will take a genius a lifetime to paint his masterpiece. God, with relish, paints two each day. He needs neither brush nor canvas. He paints with matter. However, that’s just one way of looking at it, for in actuality, He is continuously painting a sunset and sunrise, somewhere.

What’s more, God speaks not merely through creation but He condescends and speaks to creation. We know God through His Word. We know Him must fully through the Word become flesh (cf. Jn. 1:1-14). Contra agnosticism and deism, God can and has condescended and revealed Himself. He can do this because He is Lord of all creation.[3] It certainly is not beyond His power.

General Revelation

It says in Romans 1:18-20 that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven… for His invisible attributes… have been clearly perceived.” What does this mean? This means that we can clearly see that there is a God from creation, even more than that, some of His attributes are made visible from His creation. “Namely, his eternal power and divine nature.” So we can perceive from creation God’s innate divinity and his everlasting power (see also Ps. 19:1-6).

So what can we understand about God from creation alone; from general revelation? We can first see God’s power. The God who made this immeasurable universe must himself be endless. The God who made this world with all its endless mysteries must Himself be majestic and divine. We can also see that God’s wrath is revealed.

I use to be a security officer. One night when I was doing my rounds and walking around the perimeter of the fence I heard a weird noise. I was not sure what it was. I was all by myself and my mind was telling me that all sorts of ill fates awaited me. However, I had to do my job so I continued to investigate the strange noise.

The noise reminded me of some sort of constant rumbling but of what I could not be sure. I kept walking toward the noise. I walked as far as I could, but eventually the fence stopped me. I was not a hundred percent sure what the noise was. It sounded like a fountain or a stream. But why had I never noticed it before? Was it a new fountain? That seemed unlikely. Or perhaps a man on a four-wheeler was planning on breaking in?

I don’t know. And the point is, I couldn’t know. My perception was obstructed. I could never be sure what I heard. I had evidence that something was there and I could even deduce things about it from what I heard but I could never be sure about it.

It is this way with general revelation. We can know something is out there but we are limited in our understanding of that something because we are fenced in. However, the good news is that this something has revealed itself, Himself, to us through the Bible; through special revelation. The Bible allows us to go past the fence and behold God.

While there are similarities between general and special revelation there is a chasm of difference. With general revelation alone there is only condemnation and hopelessness. Whereas with special revelation, there is a chance for reconciliation and hope in Christ.[4] Just as if we read merely Romans 1:18-32 we see man’s shortcoming and God’s wrath, we do not see hope. It is the same if one sees merely general revelation we cannot ultimately have real hope. However, if we read Romans 1:18-32 in context we will read verse 16 and realize that we can have hope in the gospel and we can see that it is through the gospel, though special revelation alone, that one can have salvation.

Special Revelation

Some seek after a god and imagine vainly what he would be like (Acts 17:27) but we rest in the fact that God has revealed Himself, He has spoken (e.g. Deut. 5:23-24; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Heb. 1:1-2). We can know Him, the all-powerful God. Our knowledge cannot be exhaustive, yet we can truly know, but not wholly. Not yet, not for all eternity, for God is infinite and the finite cannot obtain the infinite, even after eons in pursuit. So our knowledge and love will grow, but grow eternally, for we cannot reach the end of God’s glory. So, yes we can know God! And truly! But not finally wholly, but this is part of the superb glory and wonder of Yahweh, and indeed heaven.

Jesus, the Revelation of God in Flesh

The LORD wrote the word to reveal Himself, yet in the later days the Word—God—became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us and we have seen His glory (see Jn. 1:14; Heb. 1:1-2). The infinite, inconceivable, was conceived! The Lord of all nature formed His own human nature in His mother’s womb. The nails that held Jesus on the tree were upheld by His own hand on the molecular level (see Heb. 1:3).

What Christ did on earth—loved, healed, sought sinners, condemned Pharisees, told us of God’s wrath, died for sinners, etc.—shows us God and His priorities (cf. Jn. 14:9). Jesus, God in flesh, He who is infinite in perfection, reached out and touched a leper. What an amazing thought! The LORD loves us. The LORD condescends and reaches out to us in love.

Jesus manifested the glory of God. Jesus tabernacled among us, He showed us Himself in flesh.[5] Yet, that still does not mean that we have seen all of God or know God exhaustively. Heaven will be an endless revealing of the glory of God. Remember the response that humans give angels in Scripture? Humans sought to bow in worship. Yea, angels fall prostrate before Yahweh and cry, “Holy, holy, holy.” We for all eternity will see more and more and more of God’s glory manifested and thus will increase in our ecstasy of worship. This sounds strange, I realize, yet this is what we all truly desire. I, also, do not pretend to know how it will unfold. Yet, I know it will be better than anything we can think or imagine, as Paul the Apostle says.

In Scripture, it seems to me that with each epoch of revelation from God there is a new crescendo of praise that God’s people are able to reach. In the garden, though Adam and Eve saw God they did not see Him as we do, as Savior. We have seen that which the prophets longed to look, which is a vast blessing, and should cause us to cry out in praise, yet what was the response of the saints in John’s vision from Patmos? From Genesis to Revelation we see in escalation of praise. This, I believe, is because we see more of God manifested and thus praise more. I believe this will go on and on for eternity. Seeing more, loving more, seeing more, loving more. When talking about addictions, there is what is called, “the law of diminishing returns.” That is, once someone has reached a certain “high” they no longer are happy with that high but desire a new high. This for the addict has, literally, grave consequences. However, for the saint this is glorious! The “high” (excuse the crass example) we seek is ever available, will ever increase, and will never harm![6]

Practical Application of this Doctrine

If we know of God in our heads, that is, a self-conceived notion of Him but not the real God, not the God of the Bible, then we will become futile in our thinking and our foolish hearts will be darkened (Rom. 1:21). A wrong view of God leads necessarily to impurity (v. 24), dishonorable passions (v. 26), and a debased mind (v. 28). We must truly know God and honor Him as God. We will not rightly honor Him if we do not rightly know Him. It may seem as though this topic is not applicable but it certainly is. A. W. Tozer put it well in his classic work, The Knowledge of the Holy,

“It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.”[7]

Now may we praise God for graciously revealing Himself to us—His power and majesty through creation, His character through His word, and who He is, expressed most definitively in, the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

______________________________

[1] Here are some helpful and popular arguments for the existence of God from William Lane Craig. And here are some more arguments for the existence of God.

[2] Yet, in another sense, He did need to reveal Himself. And that is because of His character, not because of some outside constraining force.

[3] See for example John Frame, The Doctrine of God, 80-115.

[4] Calvin says, “there is no righteousness except what is conferred, or comes through the gospel; for he shows that without this all men are condemned: by it alone there is salvation. John Calvin The Romans Trans. by John Owen (Grand Rapids, Michigan Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1948), 67.

[5] It must not be forgotten that not only do we see Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, in Scripture, but Jesus sent a Helper to us; the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity (Jn. 14:16-17). Our bodies, we are told,  are temples for the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). So we do not just learn of God externally but the Spirit bears witness and deeply communicates with us internally (cf. Rom. 8:16, 26).

[6] I believe our worship as individuals increases the more special and general revelation that we receive; or at least should. Thus, I believe that we should be the “worhipingist” people of all time. This is because we can see the glory of God proclaimed by the use of the Hubble Telescope (soon to be Webb) and because we have more Scripture then past generations and we have many more resources available to truly understand the text.

[7] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life. (Lincoln, NE: Back to the Bible Broadcast, 1961), 6. I can of many examples to demonstrate this. The first one that comes to mind is Greek Mythology. The so-called gods and goddess were more crass then the whole of humanity.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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